“As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it. He said, ‘If only you knew on this of all days the things that lead to peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes.'” Luke 19: 41-42 CEB
As I write this, people all over my country are literally gathered around their television sets and mobile devices watching an adult film star talk about her affair with the man who would become President. One side of our political spectrum sees this as the smoking gun to bring him down. The other side sees absolutely zero issues with the hypocrisy inherent of giving such a man a pass while other politicians have been maligned and exiled for much less.
There is no peace.
A little over a month ago a young man walked into a high school in Florida and slaughtered 17 students. Yesterday millions of students and their supporters marched through the streets of the world, in cities great and small, to protest the fact that weapons of mass killing are easily available to people who would commit these acts. These people are ridiculed by people who feel like the only thing that guarantees peace is their “right” to wield and use such weapons.
Yet there is no peace.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem all those years ago he stopped and wept. He wept because despite the celebrations, despite people acclaiming him as the Son of David, those same people didn’t realize who he really was and what he had come to do. Really the whole thing was lost on them, even on his disciples.
They missed the point. As Pastor and author Brian Zahnd said today via Twitter, they missed the illustration that Jesus was making when he rode into town on a dusty donkey instead of a great warhorse. Even as he hung on the cross 5 days later the people wondered why he didn’t come down and save himself seeing that he had exhibited so much power beforehand.
They thought the basic equation was “power=peace.” It was not true on Palm Sunday, and it was not true on Good Friday either. Even though Christ’s resurrection from the dead vindicated his very different equation, to this day we human beings largely follow the first dictum that power means peace, or as it has been said, “might makes right.”
If we could just get our favorite politicians in power, we could have peace. If we could just get this one law passed we would have peace. If we would just give more people weapons and show them how to use them, we would have peace. If we just win this next war, we’ll have peace.
Politicians don’t mean peace.
Laws don’t mean peace.
Weapons and War certainly don’t guarantee peace.
Now, does that mean that none of these things can ever contribute to peace? No. I don’t think there’s really a sane argument to be made saying that the current administration wants peace. In fact a lot of folks on both sides agree that they really don’t. This administration seems to thrive on mistrust, fear, and dissonance. A different president (of either party) would probably do things very differently. Personally I feel like restricting access to certain kinds of weapons and weapon modifications would reduce the chances of disturbed individuals getting their hands on them, though I know that there are those who vehemently disagree. One can certainly argue that any number of wars have been the right thing to do to preserve or reinstate peace, and some feel like their ability to possess and wield weapons will intimidate others into peace.
Yet none of these things ever produce a lasting peace. We always end up needing different politicians, new laws, more weapons, and at least one more war.
Why? Well I think Solzhenitsyn had a good take on it:
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
The things that lead to peace seem foreign to us. We all want power. We all want to be right. We all want to be recognized. We all want to win, and there is a streak inside of you, and me, and every one of us that would stop at nothing to make that happen.
That’s why The Way of Jesus seems so antithetical to us. Most of us would rather take a long walk off a short peer than to turn the other cheek, to give of all that we own and are, to love our enemies, or to lay down our lives for others.
We are what matters. Even the best of us at times covet our own power and position. Yet we have the example of Jesus who says the opposite. He says that other people are what matters and he stepped down from the ultimate power and position in the universe to show us the things that lead to peace.
If Christ rode into our country today, would he weep for us?